Waitrose to open restaurants in-store: why?


Prince Charles in Waitrose

Waitrose has announced it will launch a series of 'family style' restaurants in a number of its stores in 2015. It's a new departure for the supermarket, which currently has 96 cafes in stores.

So what is it doing, and why?

Waitrose Managing Director Mark Price told the Daily Mail that the aim was to create relaxed family dining restaurants, with waitress-service, offering simple food such as pizza and beef burgers. The idea would be to use some of the products that are on sale in the stores.

His reasoning, he explained, was to give people a reason to come into stores rather than just shop online. He told the newspaper: "It is all about developing the role of branches in an era where online shopping is developing so strongly."

So is this the answer?

Waitrose is offering this as part of a package of new ventures - including concierge services in some stores, a Tapas Bar and wine bar in the Canary Wharf store, and a flower wrapping services in a handful of other stores. Clearly it is trying to offer people a unique reason to visit the stores.

It's not alone. Asda has brought in Disney shops and shoe repairs in a similar move to turn supermarkets into mini high streets.

Tesco has also purchased the Giraffe chain, which would position it well to use the same sites for the two brands, or even bring a restaurant in store.

So will the restaurants work?

Technology could prove vital. Tesco technologists have in the past suggested a future with interactive table tops, to enable shoppes to create shopping lists while they eat. It's just a short leap to then allow customers to order their shopping while they eat, and have it delivered to their table with the bill.

Alternatively, the growth of click and collect has shown we are happy to collect from the store at a time that suits us - as long as we don't have to slog round the aisles. There may be those who would be happy to combine a nice meal out with the family with picking up their shopping.

But without all the technology can it still work?

There are those who would argue that bringing a restaurant into a supermarket just means trying to force people to relax in a sterile and stressful environment. And while we have shown ourselves keen to collapse with a cup of tea or a cooked breakfast in the cafe as a reward for doing the weekly shop, would we want to splash out on a nice meal to celebrate?

There are others who argue that the combination is done well in high-end chains like Wholefoods. There you can choose to serve yourself and sit at benches in the cafe, sit for a relaxing waitress-served meal in the high-end restaurants, and even bring food from the food-hall. Offering choice simply means you will appeal to shoppers across the board, and ensure you squeeze all possible revenue from every potential customer.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Five of the most fascinating companies

Five of the most fascinating companies

More stories